Sustainable food production

Composting to save the planet. 1.

“Spread something out enough and give nature enough time and it t will deal with anything.”

The figure below is Fig 6.3, page 50, from my book “Reversing global warming for profit”, published by MX Publishing. It shows the basic mechanism from my original research on how “the closed loop” really works.  As the human race grows in numbers, then it produces a number of problems BUT there is an advantage.  Numbers and growing wealth produce waste.  Waste is a resource from which we can grow crops, better crops with less irrigation.

Figure 6.3

What composting can do is provide a “buffer” between a controlled process and the soil. That buffer can isolate physical, chemical and biological risks in order to allow processing, monitoring and safety controls to operate(1).

Fig6.3 HowPlantFeeds-Waste

Why Soil Universes Do Not Pollute Themselves

Soils manage pollution in two ways. It is, perhaps, useful in understanding how these mechanisms work to first understand what pollution actually is. Pollution is, incidentally, not just quite natural but fundamental to life itself. Part of the definition of a living organism (as distinct from not living – a tractor or a computer for example) is that the living organism is producing pollutants. These pollutants are products from the body of the organism which must be got rid of, outside that body. The question then arises as to when that production of pollutants becomes “pollution”. The answer, in the scientific sense, is always. In the practical or legal sense, the exact definition of pollution depends on the following. If the production of pollutants is at a level where the local environment cannot, in time, bring the system back to what the ecosystem previously was, if there is a shift in the ecological equilibrium, then, it may be said, pollution may have occurred. Clearly, this is open to interpretation and may vary according to the society, the time and the circumstances. “Pollution” is not an absolute term.

The two ways a soil combats pollution are by providing a “buffer” to buy time and by digesting the pollutants and passing them into the ecological chain.

Soils which are substantially sands have little buffering capacity and little ability to hold chemically onto any particles – large or small. For example, by adding ammonium nitrate fertiliser to sand, the ammonium cations and the nitrate anions will leach out very easily with probably more than half going into the groundwater with rain or irrigation. That is a significant economic loss and potential pollution of groundwater. However, add the same material to a clay soil and the colloidal capacity of the clay will retain much of the ammonium cations and possibly some of the nitrate anions, too. Add the same material to humus and there will be a retention of all of both ions(20). There will be no leaching with rain or irrigation of either the ammonium or the nitrate ion and pollution of groundwater will be eliminated(9) (13). So, different soils will have different buffering effects and we can alter that capacity by adding and managing the organic matter levels of soils, specifically the humus content.

So, waste IS a resource for food production.

Bill Butterworth     20 Oct 2015

P.S.  I plan that every mid-week Tuesday or Wednesday depending on appointments away from base, I will run a blog piece on sustainable agriculture, farming, wastes and environment.